Cornetti are the croissant's richer, sweeter cousin. Make these crescent-shaped Italian pastries on the weekend, when you have time to properly prepare and shape the dough. Cornetti are a labor of love, for sure, but when you bite into one, you will swear you are back in Rome or Florence, sitting at your favorite outdoor cafe.
This recipe is by Domenica Marchetti, author of "Ciao Biscotti: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Celebrating Italy's Favorite Cookie" (Chronicle Books, 2015), and was originally published in the Chicago Tribune.
Cornetti are best served fresh, still warm. But they do keep well. Store them in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Heat them in a 300 F oven for 10 minutes before serving. Or freeze in zip-close bags for up to 3 months. Let the cornetti thaw for 30 minutes before warming them in the oven.
For the dough:
- 4 Teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 Cup warm water (105 degrees)
- 1/2 Cup whole milk, at cool room temperature
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at cool room temperature (return remaining 2 tablespoons to the refrigerator for later use in the recipe)
- 1 Cup sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/4 Teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups (10 ounces) bread flour
- 2 1/4 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
- 2 Teaspoons fine sea salt
- Finely grated zest of one organic lemon
- Finely grated zest of one organic orange
For the lamination:
- 3 sticks (12 ounces) cold unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons
- 3/4 Cups (3 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- Optional fillings (about 1/2 cup is needed to fill 20 cornetti): Apricot or strawberry jam, or your favorite flavor, Nutella, almond paste, pastry cream
- Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
For the dough:
Step 1: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 4 teaspoons active dry yeast and 1/2 cup warm water and let sit for 5 minutes, until the mixture is foamy. Using the paddle attachment, beat in 1/2 cup whole milk, 6 tablespoons unsalted butter and 1 cup sugar until combined; then beat in 2 large room-temperature eggs and 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
Step 2: In a separate bowl, mix together 2 1/4 cups bread flour, 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, the finely grated zest of 1 organic lemon and the finely grated zest of 1 organic orange.
Step 3: With the mixer on low speed, stir in the flour mixture, 1 cup at a time, just until a soft, sticky dough forms. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. It will be a shaggy mass. Flour your hands and gather it into a ball, using a dough scraper to help you keep it in check. Knead it lightly for a minute or two to smooth it out a bit; do not overknead. The dough will be very soft and tacky.
Step 4: Coat the inside of a large ceramic or glass bowl with oil and put in the dough, turning it over to coat the surface lightly. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Step 5: Lightly flour the work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Knead briefly to deflate it without developing the gluten. Sprinkle the top with a little flour and place the dough in a zip-close plastic bag. Refrigerate overnight.
For the lamination:
Step 1: Cut 3 sticks plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter into 1/2-inch pieces. Place them in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour and mix at low speed until combined. Turn the mixer to medium-high and mix until smooth. Scrape the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap and form it into a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle about 12 inches long and 8 inches wide. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate 15 to 20 minutes, until cold but still pliable.
Step 2: Remove the dough from the refrigerator and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it into a 20-by-12-inch rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick, flouring the top lightly if necessary to keep it from sticking. Place the chilled butter slab on top of the rectangle. Gently pat and smear the butter out to cover 2/3 of the dough, leaving the top third unbuttered and a 1- to 2-inch border. Fold the top, unbuttered third of the dough over the center third, as though you were folding a business letter. Then fold the bottom third over that. Pinch the edges of the dough together to prevent butter from escaping. Gently roll the rolling pin over the dough to distribute the butter without stretching it.
Step 3: First turns: Give the dough a quarter-turn (90 degrees). Sprinkle the dough and the work surface with a little flour, if necessary, and once again roll it out into a 20-by-12-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Fold the top third down over the center, and then fold the bottom third up over the center. Pinch the edges to seal and gently roll the pin over the dough to distribute the butter. Give the dough another quarter-turn. Roll it out once more into a 20-by-12-inch rectangle and again fold into thirds. Pinch the edges to seal. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic; refrigerate, 1 hour.
Step 4: Second turns: Lightly flour the work surface and the top of the dough. Roll it out into a 20-inch-by-12-inch rectangle and, as before, fold into thirds as you would a business letter. Pinch the edges to seal; give the dough a quarter-turn. Lightly flour and roll out again into a 20-by-12-inch rectangle. Fold into thirds and pinch the edges to seal. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and put it in a zip-close bag. Refrigerate overnight. (If the dough starts to rise, set a tray on top of it and weight it down with a heavy object.)
Step 5: Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Cut it in half crosswise, re-wrap one half and return it to the refrigerator.
Step 6: Lightly flour the remaining piece of dough and roll it out into a large rectangle, about 26 inches long by 8 inches wide, positioning it so that one of the long edges is in front of you. This takes some elbow grease, as the butter in the dough is cold. Take care not to over-flour the work surface; otherwise your cornetti will have a gritty coating on them when baked.
Step 7: Shape the rectangle into a parallelogram: Starting in the middle of the dough, roll diagonally to the upper left edge to stretch the corner. Then roll from the middle to the lower right edge to stretch that corner. This shaping maneuver will allow you to cut triangles for 10 cornetti. Trim the edges to make them straight and sharp.
Step 8: Using a ruler or yardstick to measure, and a straight-edge pastry cutter, make four notches in the dough at 5-inch intervals on both the top and the bottom long edges. Starting at the bottom left, cut diagonally up to the first notch at the top edge. This will give you your first triangle. Now cut diagonally down to the first notch on the bottom edge to create a second triangle. Continue to cut the dough in this zigzag pattern to yield 10 triangles.
Step 9: Carefully lift one of the triangles and gently pull it to elongate it slightly. Ideally, you want a triangle that is about 10 inches long and 6 to 7 inches wide. It won't be perfect, but that is fine. Lay the triangle down and spoon about 2 teaspoons of jam (or another filling) about 1-inch in from the base. Don't overfill or the filling will leak as the cornetti bake.
Step 10: Begin rolling the base up toward the tip, enclosing the filling and lightly stretching the dough as you roll. Finish with the point secured underneath. Now curve the two edges inward to make the classic crescent shape. This is your first cornetto. Set it on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Step 11: Fill and shape the remaining 9 cornetti in the same way and place them on the baking sheet so that they are not touching. (They will puff up during the final rise and will also rise during baking). If you are using two fillings and want to be able to tell the difference, make those with one filling curved and leave the others straight.
Step 12: Remove the remaining piece of dough from the refrigerator and cut, fill, and shape the remaining cornetti in the same way (or leave some empty, if you like). Cover all the cornetti loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until puffed and nearly doubled in size, at least 2 hours. (Don't put them directly under a light or too close to a source of heat, or the butter will melt.) By the time they're done rising, you should be able to see layers of dough when you view the cornetti from the side.
Step 13: Heat the oven to 425 F. Once the cornetti rise, given them a professional shine by gently brushing them with the egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk).
Step 14: Bake the cornetti for 6 minutes; reduce the temperature to 375 F and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, until they are beautifully browned. Set the baking sheets on racks to cool.